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President Biden declares war on ‘ultra-MAGA’ laws that target gay and transgender people 

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President Joe Biden fired a broadside in the nation’s culture wars on Wednesday, condemning hundreds of ‘ultra MAGA’ laws that he said discriminated against gay and transgender people.

Speaking before he signed an executive order designed to roll back the impact of more than 300 laws, he described it as a battle for the soul of the nation.

‘I don’t have to tell you about the ultra-MAGA agenda, attacking families and our freedoms,’ he said at an event marking Pride Month at the White House.

‘Three hundred discriminatory bills introduced in states across this country…

‘In Texas, knocking on front doors to harass and investigate parents who are raising transgender children.

‘In Florida going after Mickey Mouse for God’s sake.’ 

Florida has become a key battleground, with conservatives turning on Disney because of the way it opposed a law banning school teachers from holding classroom discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon designed to roll back the effects of more than 300 bills introduced around the country targeting gay and transgender people. ‘President Biden always stands up to bullies,’ said an official

Biden praised Javier Garcia, 18, who led school walkouts in protest at the 'Don't Say Gay' law in Florida, and described how a sympathetic teacher helped him find a safe space

Biden praised Javier Garcia, 18, who led school walkouts in protest at the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in Florida, and described how a sympathetic teacher helped him find a safe space

Florida has become a key battleground, with conservatives turning on Disney because of the way it opposed a law banning school teachers from holding classroom discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity

Florida has become a key battleground, with conservatives turning on Disney because of the way it opposed a law banning school teachers from holding classroom discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity

What is the Parental Rights in Education law?

HB 1557 was introduced by two Republican members of the Florida Legislature – Representative Joe Harding and Senator Dennis Baxley.

They say the bill’s aim is to ’empower parents’ in their children’s education, and make teachers recognize the distinction between ‘instruction’ and ‘discussion.’

‘What we’re prohibiting is instructing them in a specific direction,’ Baxley said about how teachers lead students in a classroom. 

‘Students can talk about whatever they want to bring up, but sometimes the right answer is, ”You really ought to talk to your parents about that.”’

It states that ‘classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.’

Part of it applies to kids in kindergarten through third grade, while a vague portion bans all discussion of ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ in a ‘manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.’

It also requires districts to ‘adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being,’ something LGBTQ advocates argue could lead to students being outed to their parents without the student’s knowledge or consent.

The state House approved the bill in February. It was passed in the state Senate on March 8 in a 22-17 vote. DeSantis signed it into law on March 28 and it will come into effect on July 1.

Measures unveiled on Wednesday are designed to help schools skirt state laws limiting support they can give to transgender children, and include a ‘full-court press’ against the discredited practise of conversion therapy – religious training programs designed to change sexual identity – which could include issuing consumer warnings against it.

But using an executive order means Biden can only direct agencies to try to find ways around the slew of legislation. Administration lawyers are already engaged in trying to unpick some of the laws.

None of that mattered to the noisy crowd that packed the East Room, cheering the president as he gave shout-outs to key gay and transgender officials in his administration. 

They included Admiral Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health, the first openly transgender four-star officer in the nation’s uniformed services, and Shawn Skelly, undersecretary of defense.

‘The first and second transgender Americans to be Senate confirmed in American history,’ Biden added to whoops.

Javier Garcier, a gay Florida student who led walkouts in protest at Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, also received a rousing reception as he described how he had been bullied.

‘But I had an escape from this: My openly gay fifth grade teacher,’ he said.

He created a classroom that made me feel welcomed.

‘I even remember noticing his rainbow socks.’

Biden closed with a call to arms. 

‘We’re in a battle for the very soul of this nation,’ he said. 

‘And that’s not hyperbole. We’re in a battle for the soul of the nation. 

‘When I look around this room here and all you hear today, it’s a battle I know we will win.’

Gender identity is among the most fraught of the frontlines in America’s culture wars.

Conservative lawmakers have passed a string of bills this year directed at transgender youth. Some bar discussion of gender identity in the classroom of limit participation in sports.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida signed into a law a bill bans any classroom conversation around sexual orientation and gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade.

Biden was joined by activists from conservative states who have pushed back on the raft of legislation limiting, for example, school support for transgender children

Biden was joined by activists from conservative states who have pushed back on the raft of legislation limiting, for example, school support for transgender children

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been at the forefront of the culture wars with his state's controversial 'Parental Rights in Education' law - which opponents call the 'Don't Say Gay' law

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been at the forefront of the culture wars with his state’s controversial ‘Parental Rights in Education’ law – which opponents call the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Officially it is known as the Parental Rights in Education law – but opponents deride it as the ‘Can’t Say Gay’ law and warn that it means vulnerable children cannot get the support they need.

And in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey signed a law preventing physicians from performing ‘irreversible gender reassignment surgery’ on minors. 

Biden’s executive order will direct agencies to push back.

It instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to protect families from attacks on access to healthcare by releasing policies on expanding services.

And it directs the Department of Education to device a sample school policy to promote inclusion for LGBTQI+ students.  

Conversion therapy is also singled out for attention. 

‘President Biden is also encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether the practice constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice, and whether to issue consumer warnings or notices,’ said the White House in a factsheet.

Laws passed this year directed at transgender youth around the US

Conservative lawmakers have passed a flurry of bills this year directed at transgender youth, including measures that bar classroom discussion of gender identity, block access to healthcare to help young people transition, and restrict participation in sports.

The Republican-sponsored legislation comes in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, with transgender rights emerging as a major front in the U.S. culture wars.

Here are some of the bills passed or enacted this year:

School sports bans 

ARIZONA: Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed a law that bans transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in public and private schools.

KENTUCKY: The legislature, overriding Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s veto, enacted a law that bans trans women and girls from school sports teams in grades six through 12 and at Kentucky colleges and universities.

INDIANA: The Republican-led legislature overrode Republican Governor Eric Holcomb’s veto of a law banning transgender girls from female school sports teams. Holcomb, a Republican, vetoed the legislation in March for addressing a nonexistent problem.

IOWA: Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill requiring student athletes to join school sports team based on ‘sex at birth’ across public and private schools as well as in higher education.

KANSAS: Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports will stand. Proponents of the bill did not get the two-thirds majority needed in the state’s House of Representatives to overturn the Democratic governor’s veto, essentially killing the bill despite a vote by state senators to override that veto.

LOUISIANA: A bill prohibiting transgender girls and young women from joining girls’ school sports teams has gone to the desk of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, who has called the legislation unnecessary but has not said whether he will veto it. The bill applies to public schools, including colleges, and private schools that receive state funding.

OKLAHOMA: Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill banning transgender girls from participating and competing in girls’ school sports. The law also requires parents or guardians of student athletes under 18 to sign an affidavit ‘acknowledging the biological sex of the student at birth.’ read more

SOUTH DAKOTA: Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, signed a bill prohibiting trans women and girls from playing on girls’ school sports teams.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Republican Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill banning transgender athletes from playing school sports that match their gender identity in public elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges, as well as private school teams that compete against public schools. 

TENNESSEE: Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, signed legislation extending last year’s law prohibiting transgender women and girls from female sports teams to apply to collegiate sports.

UTAH: Lawmakers voted to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto on a bill banning transgender girls’ participation in girls’ sports teams in school. Cox, a Republican, called the bill a flawed measure in explaining his veto.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (left) and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) are among the conservative governors who have signed conservative bills into law

Healthcare restrictions 

ARIZONA: Governor Ducey signed into law a bill banning physicians from performing ‘irreversible gender reassignment surgery’ on minors.

ALABAMA: Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed into law a bill that would make it a felony for parents and healthcare professionals to provide transition-related medical care to minors, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. The law is being challenged in court.

TEXAS: Bypassing the legislative process, Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued an order to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children. The order is currently being challenged in court. Other restrictions 

FLORIDA: Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that bans any classroom conversation, including instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade, and says all teaching for grades four through 12 must be ‘age-appropriate,’ wording that is not defined in the bill. The law allows parents to sue school districts they believe to be in violation.

ALABAMA: Governor Ivey signed a bill requiring students in public schools to use bathrooms and changing rooms that match the gender on their original birth certificates. The measure also prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grades.

OKLAHOMA: Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law a measure prohibiting nonbinary designation on birth certificates and limiting it to male or female. Oklahoma legislators passed a law prohibiting transgender and nonbinary students in public schools through high school from using multiple occupancy restrooms or changing areas that match their gender identity.

Source: Reuters 

Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Mineola, tweeted Monday he wants to file legislation to ban drag shows in the presence of minors after video showed children attending such shows in Dallas

Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Mineola, tweeted Monday he wants to file legislation to ban drag shows in the presence of minors after video showed children attending such shows in Dallas

In a tweet on Monday, Slaton wrote that 'drag shows are no place for a child'

In a tweet on Monday, Slaton wrote that ‘drag shows are no place for a child’

Attendees at the event included young people from Florida and Texas who have become activists in order to push back against the new wave of legislation.

‘These attendees represent the best of America,’ said the official. 

‘They are diverse, passionate advocates who are fighting to ensure that the promise of freedom and equality is made real for all.’

The order will also aim to remove discrimination faced by gay or transgender parents in the foster care system. 

‘Although LGBTQI+ parents play a vital role in ensuring that every child in America has a loving home, and are seven times more likely to adopt a child from foster care, these parents continue to face barriers and biases in the child welfare system,’ said the White House. 

Pride Month has triggered a wave of threats of legislation.

Last week a Republican lawmaker from Texas said he was determined to file legislation to ban drag shows in the presence of minors days after video surfaced online showing children attending a show in Dallas over the weekend.

Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Mineola, tweeted on Monday that he plans to introduce legislation aimed at ‘protecting kids from drag shows and other inappropriate displays.’ 

The announcement came after videos surfaced online showing children attending a drag show at a pride month event in Dallas over the past weekend.

The event in Dallas, titled ‘Drag The Kids To Pride,’ invited parents to bring their kids along for a drag show, and featured children dancing alongside men dressed in drag beneath a pink neon sign reading ‘It’s not gonna lick itself.’

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